En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 23, 2009

From: Rockwall, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Privacy screen for Rockwall, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dallas area privacy screen recommendations. I have about 125ft of wrought iron fence between my yard and the neighbor's and a drainage pipe that runs along the fence. The neighbor's property sits up about 2-3 ft higher than mine; the fence is 5 ft tall. I want a privacy screen of at least 6 ft tall or higher, fast growing, keep its leaves all year long, and not take up much of my yard (width-wise). All nurseries recommend ligustrum but it will take up too much of the yard. Any suggestions?


First, let us reinforce your reluctance to go with ligustrum. Both Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet) and Ligustrum japonica are native to Asia.  They can get very big and somewhat overwhelming, are considered invasive in southeast Texas, can form thickets, crowd out more desirable plants and are difficult to remove. Not only that, they have flowers with a rather unpleasant odor and produce  abundant pollen to add to allergy woes. It is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10, and every once in a while, a really cold spell hits the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and knocks down ligustrum all over the place.

There are native alternatives for your privacy screen. We don't necessarily recommend very fast-growing plants, because they tend to break down easily and are short-lived. And the fact that a plant is "evergreen" does not mean it never drops leaves. Leaves drop and are replaced over the course of the year, just not all at once. It seems we keep recommending the same two or three shrubs in these frequent requests we get for "privacy screen" plants. The problem is that not a great many woody plants are evergreen, and the few trees that are, including live oaks and conifers, get a whole lot wider than what you have in mind. So, here once more are our "privacy screen stars:"

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen, 12 to 25 ft., more common in southeast Texas, but adaptable. Takes pruning very well to maintain desired height and width. Sun, part shade.

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - Evergreen, 6 to 12 ft., fragrant foliage. Looser, lighter form, can be pruned into tree or shrub. Sun, part shade.

Ilex vomitoria


Ilex vomitoria


Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

More Privacy Screening Questions

Need a shrub to conceal a privacy fence in Knightdale, NC.
August 03, 2011 - Could you recommend a medium-sized shrub/bush (max height of 6-7 feet) to plant along a privacy fence (purpose is to conceal the fence from the street view per HOA)? I live in Zone 8.
view the full question and answer

Screen plant for Austin
March 30, 2009 - I live in Austin Texas and am looking for a small tree or large shrub that will obscure the view from my kitchen window into my neighbors. I am looking for an evergreen plant that gets no wider than ...
view the full question and answer

Blocking out noise from pond pump in Holly MI
April 02, 2010 - My neighbor has a motor for his pond pump that faces my backyard--it is extremely loud and irritating after listening to it for 5 hours or more. Is there any type of shrub that I can plant to block o...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Liberty Hill TX in full sun
April 15, 2008 - We recently bought an acre of land in Liberty Hill, TX. We have a large planting area in the front that is devoid of any plant life. I would like to turn this into a semi shaded area with some annua...
view the full question and answer

Natural Privacy Planting for New Jersey
October 09, 2013 - I have a question about privacy plantings in New Jersey (Monmouth County). We have a wooden fence around the perimeter of backyard with some various older trees. We wanted to start anew and wanted to ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center